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A Portion of the People
First Families This Happy Land · Pledging Allegiance · Palmetto Jews 
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'A New Map of the English Empire in America,' Revised by John Senex, 1719.
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“A New Map of the English Empire in America,” revised by John Senex, 1719
London, Daniel Browne and others, 1721
Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library
University of South Carolina

Collect together thy long scattered people, and let their gathering place be in this land of milk and honey.

Myer MosesAn Oration, Delivered before the Hebrew Orphan Society, on the 15th Day of October, 1806, Charleston, S.C.

From the founding of British Carolina in the late 17th century, Jews were welcomed as traders and merchants. The provisions for religious tolerance offered by the colony’s Fundamental Constitutions were unique for the time. News of an environment friendly to both Jews and Christian dissenters spread across Europe and the West Indies. From London and Amsterdam, Alsace and the Rhineland, Prussia and Poland, St. Croix and Curaçao came Jewish shopkeepers, craftsmen, and professionals, seeking their fortunes in Charles Town. The Atlantic seaboard was a highway that connected Jewish families in Carolina with kinfolk in Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Savannah, and the Caribbean, fostering business alliances and marriages.

Most of Carolina’s early Jews were people of Sephardic heritage whose ancestors had been expelled from Spain and Portugal centuries earlier. Ashkenazic Jews from central and eastern Europe were present too, but in smaller numbers. By 1780, these German-speaking Jews were in the majority, yet the Sephardim remained culturally dominant well into the 1800s.

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Last updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2019